This disease is caused by a virus known as Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV). FeLV is a retrovirus that affects the immune system of the cats and causes cancer of the lymph nodes in cats. As the immune system of the infected cats weakens, it becomes susceptible to a number of other immunodeficiency diseases. Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) are often mistaken for each other as most of the diseases caused by them are similar. But, they differ genetically as well as in many other different ways.
The transmission of feline leukemia can occur from an infected cat to the healthy one through saliva, tears, urine or nasal secretions. However there has to be a close contact between the infected and the healthy cat for transmission of the disease. Both male and well as females of all cat breeds, between the age groups 1-5 years are affected by this disease. Cats that are groomed together or cats at a multi-kitten household are at a higher risk of contracting this disease. Although this disease is highly contagious in cats it is never transmitted from cats to human beings.
Signs and Symptoms of Feline Leukemia
After getting infected, the symptoms start showing after 2-4 weeks, during the acute stage of the disease. The following are feline leukemia signs and symptoms:
- Weight loss
- Difficulty in breathing
- Compressed windpipe
- Accumulation of fluid in chest
- Gastrointestinal diseases
- Tumors in lymph nodes, liver, spleen, kidney
- Reproductive disorders
- Neurological disorders
- Respiratory disorders
- Eye and oral diseases
- Immunodeficiency diseases
If you notice leukemia symptoms in your pet cat, you need to take it to the vet immediately. Different diagnostic tests like the ELISA test, IFA, CBC, X-ray, bone marrow, ultrasound of chest can help in diagnosing this condition. Although there is no treatment for feline leukemia, it can be controlled before the disease results in death of the cat. Standard cancer treatments like chemotherapy, blood transfusion, antibiotics and anti viral medications, steroids can help in controlling the disease. At the same time, diet and vitamin supplements are also very effective.
Feline leukemia prevention is possible through FeLV vaccines. Although they are easily available, one cannot guarantee of 100% protection. If the cat shows even slightest symptoms, it should not be vaccinated. The infected cat should immediately be quarantined.
One should remember that leukemia symptoms in cats should be identified at an early stage. If the disease reaches the advanced stage, there is no way of treating it!